Saturday, April 11, 2020

Cyclical Time: decay and destruction, creation and reconstruction.

'Fallen Idol', gilded gesso and oil paint on oak panel (work in progress). 
I used the remaining fragments of the salvaged 18th century oak doors, which were re-purposed for oak paneling and doors in the house renovation, and bits of molding from the ceilings, to make the panels for the reconstruction of the medieval gessoed, gilded painting and for the ‘broken idol’ trompe l’oeil painting.

It was important for the meaning of the work that both the materials and the process reflected the idea of cyclical time, decay and destruction, creation and reconstruction.  Using recycled materials for the panel and fragments of torn paper for the image, along with the traditional associated slower more meditative crafts employing natural materials like animal glue, gesso, gold leaf and tempera and oil paint to build 'value' out of ordinary, discarded or worthless things. Art and alchemy involve processes of material and spiritual alteration and transformation.  

Contemplating this gathering together of disassociated materials and elements and their metamorphoses into a new forms and meanings through their reconstitution reflects wider cycles of historical change in which fragments of the material past survive and are re-configured within new contexts and given new interpretations.

The iconography of the broken statue is very loaded in the Western cultural canon, carrying both the synthesis as well the antithesis of form and content between classical and Christian ideas and traditions. It resonates for each generation in a different way, finding new associations and meanings without fully shedding its older ones. What breaks through the surface of consciousness in the present often carries a long undertow that reaches deeper below, which is barely seen or understood but which is no less real for being invisible.  

Michaelangelo's 'David' being protected 'in situ' from bombing in
Florence during the second world war by the construction of a brick wall. 

There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization.
Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,
For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.


French archeologists and workers pose in front of the statue of Antinous, commissioned
by the emperor Hadrian in 130 AD and unearthed in the summer of 1894 near the 
Temple of Apollo in the sanctuary at Delphi 

πατε τ βασιλε̃ι· χαμα πσε δαδαλος αλ.

οκτι Φοβος χει καλβαν, ο μντιδα δφνην,

ο παγν λαλουσαν, πσβετο κα λλον δωρ.
Tell the emperor that the Daidalic hall has fallen.

No longer does Phoebus have his chamber, nor mantic laurel,

nor prophetic spring and the speaking water has been silenced.

Last utterance of the God Apollo delivered by the oracle of Delphi to the messenger of the Emperor Julian in 362 AD. 

Triumph of Christianity, Triumph of Christian Religion, By Tommaso Laureti, 
1585, Room of Constantine, Vatican Museum. 

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